Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Debbie Ford and the shadow

Painting cloth with huito in Diamante, Peru
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

Tuesday night I went to go see one of my favorite authors, Debbie Ford. She's written several books including Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Secret of the Shadow, The Best Year of Your Life, and her latest, Why Good People Do Bad Things. She was originally supposed to come during the same time frame that Hurricane Ike hit Houston! That obviously got rescheduled and I was so happy to get to go see her - for only $15! I've always wanted to go to one of her weekend workshops, but they cost several hundred dollars, so that ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

Her talk was called "Healing the split and loving all sides of you" and she talked about many of the things she's written about in her various books. Essentially the "shadow" is the part of ourselves that we sort of disown or hide so deep we really do not believe it's in us. It's what Carl Jung called the shadow, and other psychologists call the false self. It can sometimes ruin our lives, because we so hate that part of ourselves (and sometimes project it onto others) that it drives us to become the opposite. Maybe it was a trait of our parents, or maybe it is something we just despise like greediness or meanness. Her whole work revolves around getting people to accept and even love all sides of ourselves. Because when we say the concept that we are a microcosm of the macrocosm, or all of the world lies within us, or things like that the point is that we as a single human being are capable of anything - good or bad - in the right circumstances. (I think that the Stanford prison experiment made that clear, in the negative sense).

So at the end she did an exercise where we close our eyes and she guides us through a visualization. I have a CD of her visualizations that I listen to some mornings and it was a very similar one except in this case she had us pick one trait that we do not like in others. The thing we most do not want to be like. Mine is narcissism. I do not like simple-minded, judgmental people who believe, truly, we are just furniture in their world. Their views are truth, and everyone else is wrong. There are no different opinions, everyone else is wrong. So that was my negative trait I focused on for the visualization.

In the visualization we were told to personify that trait and give it a name, and what first came to my mind was "embryo" but I couldn't picture an embryo so I pictured a baby. And as I did I realized that all babies are narcissistic, by biological nature. They don't know that the world is not their entire world. They cry to get fed. They cry to get their poopie pants changed. They do not realize yet that mom is not an extension of themselves. So in that sense, I and everyone else has within them narcissism. And I realized that I needed to love that part of me, because the reality of my life was that as a baby and child I got inconsistent love. So that inner child, that narcissistic child needs to be loved and cherished so that I do not hate that part of me. And a vision came to me during this also that in certain relationships I push to get what I want and think I know what's best for that person or for the relationship, and in a sense that is me acting narcissistic! How can I know what's best for anyone else? I can hardly know what's best for me.

So that was what I got out of it. It was actually a big shift and a big realization, and it was really wonderful. I've been happy the past few days, and feel very positive and hopeful about the future.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tasmanian devils

Yawn! Tasmanian devil in Tasmania, Australia.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

Deane Rimerman wrote on his Forest Policy site about the risk of Tasmanian devil extinction, and linked to my two articles I've written about the critters. Check out the page Stop Tasmanian Devil extinction, Save Tarkine from eco-tourism road, or the main page.

Here are links to the two articles I wrote about Tasmanian devils and the horrible facial tumor cancer disease they're facing which may drive them to exticntion:

Tasmania's Devil of a Problem. The world’s most famous marsupial predator may face extinction within 15 years from a contagious cancer. National Wildlife Magazine. June/July 2008.


Sympathy for the Devil, Ideas Emerge to Save the Dying Tasmanian Devil. [PDF of piece Reproduced with permission. Copyright (c) 2007 Scientific American Magazine. Mar 07] (Text copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp)

And here are some pics I took of devils in captivity - I've never posted most of these before now.

Their ears turn bright red when they get riled. This one was actively running around and at one point chasing its tail. It reminded me of Taz who spins around! Ha!

Snoozing devil. Notice the scars on his snout. This is nothing - as they age they get many more! They bite during mating and they scuffle quite a bit in general.

Devil dogpile!
Thought I'd include a shot of the drop-dead gorgeous Tasmanian temperate rainforests!
Sleepy lil' devil. So cute!
Resting my head...
Two devils check each other out.
Hanging out. I love these little guys!
They are just beautiful animals.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

loving the sunshine!

The kids enjoying an awesome ecocruise in Tangalooma Bay, Queensland Australia
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

I can't tell you how amazingly happy I am to have sunshine back after a week of rain. It was like a reflection of my soul, too, or maybe the crappy weather was just weighing on my soul. And now I have just been soaking up the sun like a mad woman! I sit in the backyard at the patio table and just bask like one of those lizards trying to get warmed up. It fills every part of my soul. I couldn't live in Oregon again, I don't think, it's just way too cloudy and gray and rainy! Viva la sunshine!!

This week is my kids' spring break and we haven't had anything big planned so today we went to Mountasia which is a place with go-carts, miniature golf and bumper boats. We went with Doug and had a great time! The go carts weren't that fast at all, but it was our first time ever driving them so it was really pretty cool. We got soaking wet on the bumper boats, too. If we thought the go carts were slow, the bumper boats, well they do not move hardly at all but they do squirt... And Doug made sure I got completely soaked. Ha!

Afterward we went to Baker St. Grill and that was yummy. We sat on the patio in the glorious sunshine and dried off. It was a good day. I finished my taxes, finally, and have been working on my chapter about young earth creationism and my visit to the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas last October (See pics at Land of the Lost). I hoped to finish it this week but now I'm not so sure! It's already Friday tomorrow!! I also sent off my Expedition Shark Discovery Channel blog as an entry to the Society of Environmental Journalism Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment- wish me luck! Can't hurt to try!

So I'll keep this short, I'm gonna send off my taxes after a quick review, and get back to writing my book chapter! A week from Tuesday I'm giving a talk at my son's school on the many benefits of forests and trees! I have to develop a Powerpoint for that, but it's going to be modified from a talk I gave a couple times already. The first time was for one of the first meetings of my nonprofit, San Jacinto Conservation Coalition (yes, I do have too many irons in the fire, you think??!). Ooh that link is broken at the moment, hopefully it will be back soon! So I have lots and lots to do... hope I can manage to keep all the balls I'm juggling in the air!! I'm feeling really good though. I feel positive, and determined to keep the joy in my days!! Let's hope it lasts!! I have to share one more funny thing. I did this little quiz on facebook "Where Should You live?" based on your preferences for weather, culture, attractions etc, and guess what the answer was? No big surprise here - Australia!! It cracked me up though because I swear I didn't doctor the quiz to answer that way and I was actually surprised it gave me that answer!! But hey, I'm game. I've always said I want to live there!!

Here's a photo of the day last week when I had lunch with my friend Carmine Stahl, author of Trees of Texas. :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

maps, constancy, and wanderlust

Logan Pass, Glacier National Park in Montana
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I got out my Atlas from the car yesterday to look at. I don't know why but I've always loved looking at maps. Maybe it's because I moved so many times across the United States, and whenever we'd move we'd drive and stop at various national parks and places along the way. The Corn Palace. The Grand Canyon. The Black Hills of South Dakota. During these trips I'd look at the Atlas and read the names of cities and look at all the parks and various places to stop along the route. I loved how the West was so open without so many cities. Most of my youthful traveling was done in the western half of the U.S. and I only have made my way to the eastern U.S. as an adult, and even there not so much. But I've been in every state in the western half of the U.S.!

So I may be going camping somewhere soon, and that was my main motive for getting out the Atlas, but just seeing it on my counter brings wanderlust to my heart. I love road trips. I love traveling and seeing the way the landscape changes. And when I sit still for too long I get antsy and I long so deeply in my soul for fresh air, for change, for something new. Some people like constancy. Some people get the same drink at Starbuck's every single time - a grande mocha, or a Venti nonfat iced mocha. I'm not one of those people. I have a regular drink but I like to change it up. Sometimes I'll get tea. Sometimes I'll get a super caramely Frappuccino. Usually I get a grande nonfat nowhip mocha but sometimes I'll go for a marble mocha or a mocha with a shot of hazelnut.

I love variety and I get incredibly bored with constancy. Sometimes this is true also for my heart. My heart has wanderlust that plays out as dissatisfaction with the status quo. That doesn't mean a cheating heart, but a heart that just can not seem to rest and stay. I see the unraveling thread of the hem of the pants, and focus incessantly on that. Will the thread unravel the whole garment, unless it's stopped? I seem to think so, but maybe that idea is merely an illusion. A story. Who knows what will happen, really?

I am learning, or trying to, to sit still and be, and accept that which I cannot change. To sit in my discomfort. And let me tell you it is an incredible amount of discomfort to sit in, when it's been a way of life to take charge and give orders and lead and guide and help and show the way. My heart is afraid of making the wrong choice. Sometimes leadership and a teaching role is necessary, but other times it's not. In loving others, how hard it is sometimes for me to truly accept them and love them and listen. At church today, Pastor Al talked about how we often have our own headset on our ears, and when people talk, we don't really listen. We have our responses all formulated before they even stop speaking. That's been the case with my interaction with some people, but it's also been the case for me. My dad was an incredibly good listener, but I never really learned that skill very well - especially in the challenging conversations where it matters most that we hear not just through our filter, but to understand what the other person really means - sometimes they don't have the right words, and it takes teasing it out to figure out what their heart is trying to convey through words. We do both ourselves and others a disservice by just taking things at face value sometimes.

So I am learning and seeking the way within myself to sit with 'what is,' to accept the love that is in my life, to accept people for who they are regardless of the future, and to try not to react and over-react and push away when what I really want is to love and be loved. Boy, I tell you, growing up with the back-and-forthness between parents, across the country, with new friends every couple years, that kind of youth experience does not make it easy to know the way to form intimate and deep relationships that can make it through challenging times. Sometimes the way is just to be there, and to show constancy, even when it seems easier to get the map out and wander down another path.

Byron Katie talks about Loving What Is (also the title of her book), which is the ability to not constantly try to change other people, but to recognize that which bothers us in other people is merely a projection of the things we don't like in ourselves. And since we can't change others, we can only work on changing ourselves and accepting other people. She also says she doesn't make decisions anymore, but she finds that she just starts to do some things and not other things. The decisions sort of make themselves. She goes inside, to ask herself, is this something I want and that resonates with my heart and soul? And the answer becomes clear.

Changing our thinking can end our suffering, because every single thing that causes emotional suffering - according to Katie - is caused by our attachment to a thought. And researchers at (I believe) University of Washington Medical Center have showed recently that her method (The Work) is effective to the 0.001 level (statistically significant) at improving...something or other - they presented the results briefly at the conference I attended but I honestly can't remmeber what they measured - maybe depression, or mood or self-analysis of whatever situation?) At any rate, according to the researchers it matches up with the latest research in cognitive psychology about how literally changing our thinking improves depression and other issues. I am going to start doing The Work more, but I'm so impatient. I want to change instantly and be better at the things I fail at! But I am trying to accept the timeline of God's healing of my heart is not always that which I wish it to be. I am on the path. Love is the way.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

you'll always have the sky

A Nazca booby sits like a sentinel on EspaƱola Island, Galapagos archipelago. See my Galapagos photo gallery for more pics.
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

Where has the week gone? I'm starting a new article on virgin birth in sharks, which is just incredibly cool and interesting. Have just started on my taxes... They're always a bear since I do them myself, and being self employed there are like 10,000 forms... (that might be a slight exaggeration). :)

I watched the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona tonight while sorting out my receipts for taxes and the beauty of Barcelona and Spain ignited my wanderlust. Watching it made me want to travel and experience a different culture again, and to see the beauty that is there in Barcelona, or anywhere but the concrete jungle of Houston. One of my students in my writing class said that a Hopi woman once said to her, when she lamented living in a city, at least you have the sky.

The other night Doug and I went for a lovely walk around his neighborhood at dusk and the sky was just beautiful. The sky was a lovely pastel periwinkle blue with clouds illuminated by buttery sunshine. Then the full moon emerged, so large it looked four times it's normal size, peeking out behind a dark grey cloud. The contrast between the grey and the blue and yellow - it was just very luminescent. I only wish we had more stars here in the sky. All the lights of the city drown them out. I still imagine so clearly the absolute brilliance of the night sky in Costa Rica in December of 1999 when Discovery Channel sent me there to write about leatherback sea turtles (Love & Death on Turtle Beach). It was a new moon, and as I patrolled the beach looking for nesting sea turtles at night I was astounded, I mean truly astounded that I could see so many stars. Never in my life had I been in so much awe of the night sky. I've seen stars since but never like that. It was a magical time, a magical moment.

I also loved this quote from the movie. Juan Antonio is the main male character in the movie, and at one point Vicky and he visit his dad, who is a poet who writes beautiful poetry in Spanish but refuses to publish because he hates the world and the people of the world. Vicky asks Juan Antonio why, and he replies, "Because after thousands of years of civilization, they still haven't learned how to love." I thought that was very profound. I'm so tired of hate and prejudice and intolerance and judgment.

Tomorrow I hope to get started again on my book. I had to write that article on cyanobacteria which took time away from it, and am now getting back to my chapter on young earth creationism and my visit to the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose. I watched the movie Alice in Wonderland as "research" today for that chapter.

On a practical note I just announced the opening of a new session of my online writing class! It will begin April 11. If you're interested check out the writing page website, or email me.

Monday, March 09, 2009

feeling better and some articles

The twilight, in fact, had several stages, and several times after it had grown dusky, acquired a new transparency, and the trees on the hillsides were lit up again.
--Henry David Thoreau

I'm feeling much better today. I had some stressful sad moments, but used the opportunity to call some girlfriends - God bless them - and they got me through, and you know what? I feel happy! A couple things I wanted to mention.

One of my former writing class students, Hallie Gardner, got this article published in E/The Environmental Magazine. It's so neat to go from interaction on a piece to finalized product! Cut Down: Clearcutting in California’s Sierra Nevada.

And I have the cover story in this month's Texas Parks & Wildlife, along with writers Barbara Rodriguez, & Sheryl Smith-Rodgers. 30 Cheap Getaways: Quick, outdoorsy getaways near Dallas, Houston, and Central Texas.

That's all for now. Tomorrow it's my son Sam's turn to perform his school's play in the PSIA competition at St. Francis Episcopal School for the regional meet. This is the private school version of UIL that Savannah did last week and her play got first place!! She didn't have an acting role this time but was costage-director but Sam does have a speaking role. I'm excited to see him! I love my kids!!

The quote from Thoreau came in a daily inspirational email I get, and it was an aha moment kind of thing because in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, which is one of my all-time favorite books and which won a Pulitzer - and is just gorgeously written and profound and brilliant and beautiful (but enough gushing)... she talks about "the tree with the lights in it" and I never really quite knew what she meant. I got the metaphor but I think she must have actually been referring to this quote from Thoreau (because throughout she regularly references other nature writers and other writers and scientists directly and indirectly). The inspirational email ended with this bit of wisdom, "It's true that it's darkest before the dawn, but we have countless candles to brighten our night" which is from the book Night Light by Amy Dean. It spoke to me because my friends are the candles that brighten the night!

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Ohana. Walking along Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

"Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind."
- Lilo & Stitch.

I tried to blog. I stared at the blank window for an hour. I just don't have anything to say. It's a bit of a rough time right now. Prayers appreciated. Lots of love.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Birthday fun!

For Doug's birthday I took him to see a 3D IMAX movie, In the Deep, which was about the underwater world off California's Channel Islands. We both lived in Cali and both love to dive so it was very cool! The 3D was amazing, I loved it and he did too! We just think we're quite fashionable in these glasses. So Jackie-O.
Mwaa! Kiss!

Yea we roll like that!
After the IMAX we went to Rice Village and this is in a cool store called Candylicious. It's a very cool store! They have candy from all over the world. My favorite candy when I was a kid (well one of them) was Abba Zabba, a white taffy filled with peanut butter. They are from the West Coast and are not typically sold here in the south. He also got the kids a couple different things. :) I like the layout of this image better than the previous one because you can see more of the store.
We had a late lunch at Mi Luna, a Spanish tapas restuarant in Rice Village. Two of my favorite dishes which we ordered are the rape con miel - a monkfish in saffron cream sauce, & an eggplant dish. We also got calamari!
Yesterday we went to the grand opening of the Stahl Preserve which is part of the Spring Creek Greenway, a long linear park along both sides of Spring Creek and a joint project of Harris & Montgomery counties. Carmine Stahl is a dear friend of mine and a very kind gentle soul. He was a Methodist minister for many years, retired and then became the park naturalist at Jesse Jones Nature Park for many years! He moved to Ohio a couple years ago but was in town for the dedication of his preserve. He's the author of Trees of Texas. I designed the Spring Creek Greenway website and produced a video for them a couple years back.
Doug and I went for a short paddle. This little lake is lined with bald cypress trees.
I had planned to make this meal for Doug's birthday itself but we stufffed ourselves at Mi Luna and so ended up making this yesterday instead. It was soooo good. I grilled NY strip steak with sauteed mushrooms, plus twice-baked potatoes, asparagus and I made him a peanut butter cake which we had with chocolate ice cream! Yum! It was such a gorgeous day yesterday, we ate dinner in the backyard.
Plumber's butt! (There's a worse pic, I opted to spare you... ha ha!) Doug spent hours replacing my kitchen faucet. Two trips to Lowe's and a lot of frustration trying to figure out what the deal was on how to get the old one out. The Lowe's people are soooo helpful though, call them over the phone and they'll give you info over the phone (or in person) you need to do the repair yourself. And they have a lifetime replacement policy on any product in the store, which I didn't know until yesterday!! After like 1.5 hours of trying to get the old faucet out, we called and they said it helps to remove the sink. Once he did that, it was much easier! Doug was so incredibly patient during this whole thing, I was blown away! What a sweetheart!! Saved me $250 the plumber wanted to charge me!!
Taking the sink out!
Yea! A working new faucet!
Just us, being weirdos! LOL.

Now I think I'm coming down with the flu. I woke this morn supposed to go to lunch with Carmine but then as soon as I got up realized my muscles are all incredibly achy but it's not from working out because I haven't in the past couple day. And then I realized I also had a headache and felt nauseous. So I'm back in bed, wanted to upload these real quick and do a couple work things then I'm going back to sleep until I have to get the kids from school. I turned in my cyanobacteria article and next have to get back to work on my book! We want to go camping somewhere near a ghost town in the Hill Country. Anyone know of one, near somewhere cool to camp? (we'd camp in a state park or something and then take a day trip to the ghost town).

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

nightmare - interpretations pls?

Mountain Lion
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I haven't really felt like blogging lately and I'm not sure why. I haven't journaled much lately either. The last week I worked on an article I'm writing on the link between cyanobacteria blue-green algae) and Alzheimers and other tangle diseases (ALS, Parkinsons etc) so named because of the presence of neurofibrillary tangles in the brain of victims. Tangles are just what they sound like, nerve cell tangles inside the brain. Back in the 80s, I think, there was a minor panic over the use of Aluminum pans when scientists found Aluminum bound up in these tangles but that turned out to be an effect rather than a cause.

Well now scientists have isolated a neurotoxic compound, BMAA, that is produced by cyanobacteria of various species found all over the world. The scientists at the Institute for Ethnomedicine, led by Dr. Paul Alan Cox, believe this could be the culprit in the tangle diseases and they have explained a mechanism for how it could work. They've published many intriguing papers and if it pans out they could very likely get a Nobel prize.

The frightening aspect is that cyanobacteria are found in our drinking water supplies and while their acute toxic effects on animals and sometimes humans have been known for a long time, this BMAA apparently (according to Cox's theory) can lead to Alzheimers from chronic exposure to even low levels, probably in genetiaclly susceptible individuals (for example we know of genes making people more vulnerable to breast cancer, or lung cancer, etc).

It's fascinating stuff. I wrote about this a little bit back in October when I was mentioning how sand mining on the San Jacinto River because the increased turbidity leads to more cyanobacteria, particularly in dry years. (see sand mining could be toxic). My article will appear in the July issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

I finished drafts of my first 5 chapters in my book, which feels good but I have much more to go and not much more time! That is kind of stressful. In the next month and a half, I have a feature article due, and a talk to give at my son's school on the benefits of forests and trees. That on top of the need to get a couple more chapters of my book done... And on a personal level I just feel drained. I feel a bit angsty and uncertain and I'm not at all good with uncertainty.

So on a side note I had a weird nightmare and am curious what you all think about interpretation. I was at my house but my house was in a prairie without other houses around. In the distance some bison were charging at some people there and it was a sense of panic, because some guy was going to get slaughtered by this beast but it was in the distance, so I ran toward my house but as I got there saw a bison there close by. My Subaru was parked in the driveway, and as I approached the bison which had initially just been standing there got mad and started charging towards me or the car. I climbed into my car but there was a guy (who I didn't know) behind the car screaming because the bison was charging straight at him and I screamed to him to open the back hatch and he tried but the bison then rammed him into the back of my Subaru and of course at this point my heart is racing and I'm in a total panic because this guy just got killed or something right outside my car. Then I woke up.

The weird thing is the longer I think about this dream, I think I've had it before. And not only that but I used to have a recurring nightmare as a child that a wolf (or wolf pack?) was chasing me across a field and I couldn't run or run fast enough but it never "got" me. It almost seems like the dream of my childhood has returned but in slightly different form in a weird way. I also have to laugh that wildlife are even in my nightmares! Ha!